Jessie sits on a wooden park bench, arms resting on her knees as she looks to the side

5 ways you can manage your anxiety and live well

"This is all too much, I can't cope with this anymore!" Most of us have thought this at least a hundred times throughout isolation. I know I have.

It is a weird time, and although those of us with chronic illnesses are more used to the idea of isolating, it doesn't make it any easier for us. After my diagnosis at 22 years old, my fear went through the roof.

But since my diagnosis, I've learned a thing or two on how to manage my own anxiety and therefore manage my multiple sclerosis.

Without further ado, here are some of the techniques I use to manage anxiety and live well with MS:

1. Breathing

You're probably thinking, 'Jess; I know how to breathe, how can this help manage my anxiety?' But deep breathing, specifically using this technique, can have a powerful effect on your brain, sending it more oxygen and essentially telling it to chill out!

2. Gratefulness

Yes ok, you may not be feeling too grateful for the situation right now! I get it. However, it's super essential every single day to find something to allow you to feel thankful. Your 'go-to' thing is likely family and friends. However, this only adds to the hurt if you can't see them right now.

Instead, find something about your day to shift your focus. Such as:

  • wearing your favourite snuggly sweater
  • a delicious piece of cake
  • your pet making you smile
  • a cuddle from your kids
  • your favourite show on TV.

This kind of gratefulness helps to rewire your brain to focus on the positives.

3. Visualisation

Visualisation is a great technique to use right now for a million different reasons. At the moment, if you're unable to go to the place you want, you can always get there in your head. I have imagined getting on a plane and lying on a beach so many times. It's incredible, the weather is always perfect, and the cocktails always keep on coming. What's not to like?

Visualising is also a great technique to use if you have something coming up that makes you feel anxious.

4. Positive statements

Sometimes called affirmations or 'I AM's'. After doing these every single day for a few years I have seen such a change in myself. I used to be a timid, anxious, unconfident person who wouldn't say boo to a goose. Now, I'm a public speaker, a podcast host who interviews celebrities and have been in the media more times than I could ever imagine.

How is that possible? Positive statements, baby! Every day for the last few years, I have told myself things like:

  • 'I AM CONFIDENT'
  • 'I HAVE A STORY PEOPLE NEED TO HEAR'
  • 'I AM FEARLESS'
  • 'I AM ABLE TO DO ANYTHING'

It has helped me transition into the person I wanted to be. It allows your brain to focus on being the person you want to be instead of concentrating on the problems.

How many times do you remind yourself of how exhausted you are or how much pain you're in throughout the day? Thought so! We all do it. I don't know about you, but this illness has stolen away enough of my body, I draw the line at it stealing my thoughts too.

5. Naming the things around you

Ok, this sounds bonkers, I know. But naming the five things around you is a great technique to manage anxiety, and keep you grounded.

The idea is that by focusing on real things around you, you’re using the rational part of your brain, instead of the part that dwells on anxiety-inducing ‘what if’ scenarios. How do you manage your anxiety? Let me know!

Looking for emotional support? Contact our MS Helpline on freephone 0808 800 8000 or email helpline@mssociety.org.uk. We’re here Monday to Friday, 9am to 7pm except bank holidays.

This year’s #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek (18-24 May 2020) is all about kindness. We'll be sharing stories about being kind to yourself and others on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Let us know yours!

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